New Poll Highlights Key Role Women of Color Played in 2018 Election

April 4, 2019 by Dan McCue
Kassie Phebillo, left, and Maya Patel, of TX Votes, on the first day of early voting at the University of Texas at Austin. (The Pew Charitable Trusts/TNS)

Black, Latina, Asian-American and Pacific Islander women voted in historic numbers in 2018, inspired by issues they felt made it impossible for them to sit on the sidelines, a new poll says.

The data was collected by Intersections of Our Lives, a collaborative of three reproductive rights organizations, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health; In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda; and National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum.

The poll found that 88 percent of what the organizations described as “women of color voters” believed that the stakes were simply too high in 2018 not to vote in the midterm election, and it’s likely they’ll turn out again in large numbers in 2020.

That’s because a solid 75 percent of survey respondents said they continue to have “serious concerns” about the trajectory of the country, and 74 percent doubt the country will be safe for the next generation.

This last sentiment was particularly strong among Black women, but a majority of all respondents described themselves as feeling “angry, disgusted, scared, sad or nervous.”

“Our national survey findings make it clear that women of color are a powerful voice in the electorate that shouldn’t be ignored – we are paying attention and participating in our democracy at higher rates than ever before,” said Jessica González-Rojas, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health.

According to Intersections of Our Lives, there are an estimated 63 million women of color living in the United States today and over the next four decades the community is expected to almost double.

This growing population is becoming an increasingly strong voice in the electorate, with post-election data demonstrating women of color voting at higher rates in the 2018 election than in past midterm elections, the collaborative said.

To support that contention, it pointed to a recent analysis by TargetSmart, the political data firm.

TargetSmart found that in Florida the number of women of color who voted grew by more than 70 percent, from representing 13 percent of voters in 2014 to 17 percent in 2018. And in Texas, the number of women of color who voted more than doubled from 2014 to 2018 and grew from representing 12 percent of voters in 2014 to 15.4 percent in 2018.

The new Intersections of Our Lives poll found that:

  • Three-quarters of women of color voters supported the Democratic candidates in statewide and federal races;
  • One-in-five women of color voters supported Republican candidates in statewide and federal races;
  • Women of color said that they voted for candidates because they felt a need for change and because the candidates reflected their values;
  • 37 percent of women of color who voted for a Democratic member of Congress said their vote represented a need for change;
  • 28 percent of women of color who voted for a Republican member of Congress did so to reflect their values;
  • 74 percent of the women of color who voted for Democrats said Democratic candidates earned their vote. They did not vote for the Democrat as a reaction to or a rejection of the alternative;
  • 71 percent of women of color voters felt satisfied with the candidates they had to choose from in the 2018 election. Yet they would prefer to see more women of color candidates and candidates acknowledging the issues they care about.

“The poll confirms what we have known all along: that women of color perceive policies intersectionally and that our collective experiences motivate us to demand that our elected officials act now for justice and equity for our communities,” said Marcela Howell, president and founder of In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda.

While the poll found high voter participation among women of color it also found a significant number of them encountered problems at the polls.

  • 33 percent of respondents said they experienced an issue voting, such as being asked to show an ID to an election official, and
  • 23 percent left their polling place believing their vote was not counted accurately.

As for the present and future, the poll found that a majority of women of color are paying close attention to the actions of their elected officials and want to see progress made on the issues they care about – including access to clean water, access to affordable health care, and ending racial discrimination.

While the priorities of women of color are not monolithic, common ground exists. The top issues women of color want to see members of Congress make progress on over the next two years include:

  • Ending racial/ethnic/cultural discrimination (62 percent);
  • Ensuring people with pre-existing conditions can still access health insurance (62 percent);
  • Ensuring access to clean water (62 percent);
  • Ensuring everyone has access to affordable health care (60 percent);
  • 84 percent of women of color voters believe candidates should support women making their own decisions about their reproductive health.
  • 62 percent of women of color voters say they will be watching their elected officials in Congress more closely compared to previous elections.

The poll was conducted by SKDKnickerbocker between January 23 and February 14, 2019. It included interviews of 2,663 adult women who identify as Black or African American, Hispanic, Latino, of a Spanish-speaking background, Asian American or Pacific Islander and who voted in the 2018 midterm elections.

The survey was made available in English, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean and was administered online and by telephone. The margin of error for the poll is +/-1.9 percentage points.

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